December 1, 2008

Movie Review: Transporter 3

transporter32_largeBack when the television show 24 began its run we all learned a very important lesson. No, not that Kiefer Sutherland was nigh indestructible. What we learned was that good guys do their computing on Macs and bad guys use PCs. Of course, this is not something that truly applies to the real world, but in the heightened world of international intrigue and terrorist plots, it can be more important than having a gun with a full clip. The world created in the Transporter series teaches us something else. Good guys drive Audi's and bad guys tend towards Mercedes. Well, this is at least true in the latest edition of the series (good guys drove BMW's in the first film, and in a pinch anything will do).

transporter32It has been two years since the last time we saw Frank Martin (Jason Statham) completing a mission in his adopted home of Miami, thus keeping his 100% delivery rate perfect. The end of that movie found Martin saving the day, escaping certain death, and ensuring that his friend, French Inspector Tarconi (François Berléand), catches his flight back to France. That was then and this is now. Martin is back in his Marseilles home and he is certainly not chauffeuring kids to and from school (which can be quite dangerous), rather he spends his time fishing with Tarconi. Unfortunately, his non-transporting bliss is to be short-lived.

Transporter 3 plays out something like a dumbed down James Bond adventure. What the film lacks in gadgetry (well, Bond seems to lack a little in this area as well) it more than makes up for in car chases, gun fights, babes (just one, but I find her to be enough), and of course a villain with a dastardly plot. Frank Martin sits in for Bond and is put in a position of having to be reactionary based on the ever-evolving situation that develops around him.

transporter312The bad guy is Johnson (Robert Knepper), and he is plotting to force the president of Ukraine's EPA to sign an agreement that would allow for the dumping of toxic waste in the port of Odessa. Of course, he does not want to allow this to happen, but Johnson has his daughter and therefore the upper hand in the underhanded negotiations. That is about as deep as the plot goes, existing to merely give at least a little bit of heft to the 90-minute chase sequence. It works, for the most part.

You see, Johnson needs to get the kidnapped girl from Marseilles to Odessa, without being directly involved (why? that is never explained), and in order to do that he needs the best driver that money can buy. That driver just happens to be Frank Martin.

Martin is unwilling to take the gig, but winds up not having a choice in the matter. To ensure he is going to do the job, his wrist is equipped with a bracelet that will explode if he gets more than 75-feet away from his car. The same stipulation is in place for his passenger, a Ukrainian girl named Valentina (the impossibly freckled Natalya Rudakova), who is obviously the "package" to be delivered, despite Martin's initially making no connection.

transporter310What else need be said of the plot? Probably nothing. Fortunately, it is enough to keep me interested as we move from one action sequence to the next. Transporter 3 delivers on the action side of things, although it strikes me as not being quite as action packed as the prior sequel. I also want to say this is not quite as over the top and preposterous as the second film, but who am I kidding (and as soon as the bridge sequence rolled around those thoughts were completely dismissed).

The film survives on the back of Jason Statham, an actor I love in action roles. This series reminds me of the 80's era of such past action heroes as Steven Seagal and Jean Claude Van-Damme. Simple plot, plenty of bad guys, and a high number of flying fists, feet, and bullets. What helps up the ante is that I think Statham is a good actor, sure he does not need to employ high grade thespian skills for a role such as this, but there is something about the way he approaches the role that makes it work exceptionally well. Like the Saw films are for some, I could watch a new Transporter adventure every year.

transporter3pic3What helps this third film work is the unbelievable relationship that develops between Martin and Valentina. It is ridiculous, to say the least, but it works in this context. Martin, with his rules, beliefs, and frequent cause for breaking them, and Valentina with her party-girl ways, pouting, sulking, and those freckles. Natalya Rudakova, in her first acting performance, does a fine job of holding the attention in a role that does not require much.

On the other side of the story is Robert Knepper as the villainous Johnson. He is not required to do much more than be the bad guy, seemingly cut from the same cloth as Timothy Olyphant in Live Free or Die Hard. While there is not much to the role, Knepper is fantastic in it. He has proven himself capable of being truly evil as Bagwell on Prison Break, and he does not disappoint here, giving Johnson an oily demeanor that is easy to hate.

The film was directed by Olivier Megaton, a man with a name perfect for the action genre. He does a fine job here of keeping everything on track, giving us action sequences that can be seen (meaning there is no overuse of shaky-cam). Everything is well made, if straightforward. This is a movie for action fans, there is little else to offer. For some, that is more than enough.

Bottomline. This is fun movie, not really "good" in the traditional sense, but it is a well made and well executed action film. If you want to see cars flying down long stretches of road, if you want to see nicely choreographed action, all wrapped in a story that holds itself together. For a fun time at thr movies, you could do much worse.



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